Mindy Project Recap, Season 3, Episode 2: “Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis”

by | September 24, 2014
filed under Pop Culture

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Rhea Perlman as Annette Castellano in Mindy Project

“Mindy Knows Best”

I was never a supporter of Mindy ending up with Danny. First off, he dicked her around a lot last season and then couldn’t even be bothered to wait at the Empire State Building to prove his love (I’m assuming Mindy still doesn’t know Danny left, only returning when he knew for certain Mindy had already shown up).

Not only does he lack commitment, Danny is also possessive and afraid of intimacy.  We saw this last season when he broke up with Mindy out of fear and then thwarted her attempts to move on in the romance department. Okay, yeah, I am not a fan of Dandy. I wish they would break up and Mindy would find someone worthy of her quirky charms. Having said that, we’re not there yet so I must critique the episode at hand.

Last night’s episode attempts to explain away much of intimacy issues with mother-blame. Yep, that old sexist standby that rehabilitates flawed characters by suggesting their inadequate mothers screwed them up so badly they cannot be held accountable for their actions.

The episode opens with Mindy and Danny getting an unscheduled visit from his mother, Annette, played by Rhea Perlman. In a joke that has been done many times before, Annette mistakes Mindy for the maid, basically because she is a person of colour.

Regarding the “Mindy mistaken for Maid” joke, I get that they’re trying to illustrate Annette is a casual racist from whom it makes sense Danny wants to shield his girlfriend, but for a show that’s usually so original, I feel like they could have come up with a fresher way to develop Annette as a racially-prejudiced person. I mean, this is the same joke they used in Fools Rush In. Mindy Kaling can do better than that!

When Mindy realizes that Annette has never heard of her – let alone that she is Danny’s partner – Mindy is understandably upset. She asks what Danny planned to do at their wedding, and he says something to the effect of, “Well that won’t matter because you’ll be covered under lots of religious garb of some sort so Annette won’t be able to see you!”

Mindy counters by asking what religion Danny thinks she is but Danny just replies, “Orthodox something.” At this point, when a doctor in his late 30s who lives in a diverse city is so ignorant about his serious girlfriend’s culture, can we really be on his side? I don’t mean to judge you Dandy fans, but I just don’t get it.

Anyway, Mindy is no quitter, especially where a boyfriend’s mom is concerned. In light of this, she spends the next few scenes trying to prove herself to Annette. She crashes Annette’s birthday brunch and even brings gifts.

Ymindyproj2ou see, Mindy has a plan for getting all moms to like her. Apparently, you buy them stuff, pretend to watch the same TV shows, then agree with everything they say. Mindy’s desire to agree with everything Annette says gets tricky, however, when supporting her means not supporting Danny.

At brunch, Danny surprises his mom with an extravagant gift, an expensive new stove he had some guy install without her knowledge when she wasn’t home.

Annette is pissed – now some stranger she didn’t vet knows the layout of her house and she’s concerned about “elder rape.” The line is played for laughs, but elder rape does happen and she has a good point. I would also like to control who enters my house and when. Couldn’t Danny have surprised her with a picture of the stove and said someone would come install it at a time of her choosing, allowing her to be there if she wanted?

Of course, while I, the viewer, side with Annette about the stove, Mindy sides with Danny. She gets hostile, suggesting Annette’s ungrateful because Danny does “Everything” for her. There is no mention that, for years, Annette did everything for Danny, working as a single mom and hotel maid so that he could grow up to be a rich doctor. No, we conveniently forget that part.

After being insulted by Mindy, Annette runs away from her birthday brunch and decides not to let her rich son support her anymore. She punctuates her departure by telling Mindy, “I don’t like you!” Annette’s clearly smart enough to know what stings.

By this point, Mindy is firmly on board the mother-blame train. She decides she must confront Annette for hurting her son by rejecting his financial support and going back to her old position as a hotel cleaner.

When Mindy confronts Annette at her place of work, she finds Annette prostrate on the floor. Without Annette’s permission (because who cares about what she wants), Mindy fixes her hip, then accuses her of simply trying to make Danny feel “guilty” by working again. There is no question about whether Danny maybe should feel a bit guilty.

Soon, Annette gives in to Mindy’s barrage of mother-blame, agrees to quit and declares that Danny must love Mindy because she is a “strong, immigrant woman.” No, mom is not any less ignorant than she was at the beginning of the show.

By the end of the episode, Danny’s mom has even come to love the new stove she did not want. Over the course of the episode, Annette is basically right about nothing.

I have no problem with Annette being portrayed as a casual racist. Such people exist and should be portrayed on television so people on Twitter will stop saying stupid stuff like we live in a “post-race society” with no discrimination.

I do, however, have a serious problem with the fact that Annette is given no wins. Instead, it is implied her emotionally manipulative nature contributes in large part to why Danny has relationship issues.

It’s an episode where mom gets to be a caricature of small-mindedness and her concerns – such as a desire not to have random strangers in her house – are played for laughs.

People lecture her on gratitude to her son, but no one seems to remember how she raised two boys under difficult circumstances and helped them realize their dreams. In the end, Annette is merely a figure who exists to be blamed and disagreed with. She must be saved by non-mothers who know better and can teach her the error of her ways. Ugh!

For a show that is often quite progressive regarding topics such as teen sexuality, its portrayal of moms is retrograde.

Mom characters do not need to be perfect. In fact, mother-worship is its own form of sexism; however, I don’t like this world where Mother never knows best….


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  • I agree with this minus the sexist part: “Yep, that old sexist standby that rehabilitates flawed characters by suggesting their inadequate mothers screwed them up so badly they cannot be held accountable for their actions.” Not meaning to argue, genuinely asking, why is this sexist? Because of the mother being the one at blame?

    (I don’t watch this show, but I was intrigued by your post and came to read it :))

  • Sarah Sahagian

    Hey Hadas! So that is a great question. In my opinion, mother-blame is sexist in the aggregate. It’s a common trope to see characters blame their mothers for everything. In the contexts, it creates a toxic discourse. Perhaps if mother-blame were rarer, I’d be less sensitive to it. To me, however, it just feels lazy to try to make Danny sympathetic by constructing his mother as a harpy. The show also blames her for a lot and gives her credit for nothing. I mean, maybe she does guilt her son, but she sacrificed to give him everything, so we could argue that’s somewhat understandable. Instead, we get everyone guilting Annette, telling her SHE needs to be grateful to Danny. It just felt everyone was blaming her without developing her. It’s also important to note that no one mentions Danny’s absentee father in this episode, either.

  • Sarah Sahagian

    But thanks so much for the comment! I love feedback and thanks for reading!